Set in Qing Dao, China in 1948, Ann Hu’s torpid Beauty Remains is the story of a pretty young thing, estranged from her family, who returns home at the request of her half-sister. Father is dead, and if the foul Ying (Vivian Wu) is to inherit his fortune, Fei (Zhou Xun) must provide her John Hancock. She refuses, sensing an ulterior motive, and battle lines are drawn; reconciling for all of two seconds after a good laugh, their mutual affections for Mr. Huang (Wang Zhi Wen) will get the better of them. China’s communist uprising is the almost irrelevant backdrop for their blasé sibling rivalry, which transpires as a series of lackluster set pieces, with Fei’s catatonic narration filling much of the soundtrack. The constant fading in and out is only one part of the film’s banally lulling mantra, which largely rests on fetid dialogue by Westerners Michael Eldridge and Beth Schacter (“I am drawn to her like a leaf is to the ground” is how Fei curiously describes her relationship to her sister). Director Ann Wu has Wongian aspirations, and though she means for the film to be opulent and woozy, it mostly registers as a stilted dream state. Life is a stage in the film—a feeling confirmed by the final shot, in which the characters arrange furniture and pose for the audience, waiting for a standing ovation that will never come.
- Emerging Pictures
- 87 min
- Ann Hu
- Michael Eldridge, Beth Schacter
- Zhou Xun, Vivian Wu, Wang Zhi Wen, Lisa Lu, Ju Xue, Yang Lixen
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